I am now mid-way through my chemo treatment for breast cancer: 3 chemo sessions done, with 3 more to go. I wish I could say that with each chemo, things get easier. The truth is that chemo is not very selective and cannot differentiate between good and bad cells. It just invades the body and kills both good and bad cells. And each chemo has a cumulative effect so that each additional chemo is worse than the one before. Typically, I have found that the first 10 days of chemo for me are bad, and then things improve significantly and I join the land of the living. Side-effects, when things are tough, include mouth sores, loss of appetite, no taste buds (so food tastes like sand paper), chemo brain, weight loss followed by weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, nose bleeds and fatigue. I think the part I have found most difficult is the fatigue, when even getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge.
This week I found out what was making me so exhausted. My hemoglobin count has been dropping rapidly. 2 weeks ago, it was 83. This week it is 62. To put things in perspective, the average hemoglobin for a woman is 120 and hospitals will typically give you a blood transfusion when your blood count hits 70. So today I spent the day at the hospital where I received 2 pints of blood. As always, we respectfully named the bags of blood. We called the first one Massimo (which means the greatest) and we called the second bag, Eva (which means life). I said a prayer of thanks to the donors that gave me this gift of life, and then I prayed as each drop of blood entered my body happily and cheerfully.
So, there are good days and there are bad days:
Some good days bring exceptionally delightful life events — Shayne is coming home on Saturday after being in Kenya for some time. And, on Tuesday, we all fly to New York to attend Sabrina’s graduation from Columbia University!
Some bad days can be really challenging. Cancer is a tough taskmaster. I am learning that it is okay to be sad when things are difficult and take time to look after myself. Sometimes this means taking naps, sometimes it is about asking for help, sometimes it is saying no to activities, sometimes it is just about having a good cry. An equally important lesson for me is knowing that it is not healthy to stay in this state of sadness for long.
So, I have found an incredibly positive antidote to sadness: having multiple projects to look forward to that enrich my life and feed my soul. More on this in my next post!
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